Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality: A Review

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “The Bible & Homosexuality: Enough with the Bible Already.” It has leveled out now at 233 comments – which I think is a record at pomomusings. I think it was my claim that some people need to put their Bibles aside for awhile when dealing with this issue that brought out the masses. Pastor, theologian and author Jack Rogers left a comment on the post, in which he wrote:

“The problem of course, isn’t with the Bible, but with the interpretation that imposes a societal prejudice on texts that were not meant to address contemporary Christian people who are LGBT.” [Source]

jack-rogers-bookHe’s right. Obviously, as I mentioned in the post, the answer is not to throw out the Bible. However, we must look at the ways in which we have interpreted it that have brought us to our current situation. Rogers’s comment reminded me that I had picked up his “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality” a few years ago, but never got around to reading it. I finished it over Christmas and found it to be a very helpful and important book. I had the chance to meet Jack four years ago at the 2004 Covenant Network Conference at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago; he was my small group leader for the conference, and it was an honor to learn from him and hear his perspectives. Rogers is an example of someone who used to hold the traditional, conservative belief about homosexuality; through in-depth study of biblical texts and relationships with gay and lesbian people in the church, he has since come to an open and accepting position. Rogers writes, “I did not arrive at my conclusions overnight. I do not expect you to do so, either…My desire is to reframe the discussion regarding people who are homosexual so that we can better understand one another, heal our divisions, and move forward together in our churches” (16).

One of the aspects of this book I appreciate most is that Rogers speaks both as a pastor and an academic. Much of this book is written from a pastoral perspective; deeply aware of the hurt the Bible and the church have caused to the gay community. Rogers also cares deeply for the church, and wants to find a way for the church to be able to move past these debates and begin to heal. Rogers is especially committed to his denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA); he previously served as the Moderator of the 213th General Assembly of the PC(USA). However, Rogers does not skimp on the academic side of this conversation. He is Professor of Theology Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the author of many books.

Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing quotes and thoughts from Rogers’s book. I started to write an initial review of the book, but I began focusing on each chapter, and it was simply becoming too long. So I will be writing a blog post for each chapter and hoping that will provide some fodder for thoughtful conversation here. While I’ll be sharing some quotes from the book, I do encourage you to get the book yourself and spend some time with it. There is also a study guide for the book, which can be found here. I especially recommend this book to you if you are a part of the PC(USA). In his last chapter, Rogers offers some recommendations for the denomination that I think are particularly insightful, especially during the next year and a half. If you’re not Presbyterian – of the PC(USA) variety – you may not be aware of the vote that will be taking place over the next year or so. Individual presbyteries will be voting whether or not to accept a recommendation from the 218th General Assembly to rewrite G-6.0106b in the Book of Order (for more info, go here). The revised text would allow practicing LGBT persons to be ordained in the PC(USA). Similar votes have gone before the presbyteries before, and they have been voted down. We can only be hopeful that this time the outcome will be different.

As was clear with my post, “The Bible & Homosexuality: Enough with the Bible Already,” this topic can really bring about a lot of conversation. I was encouraged by most of the conversation on that post, and hope that we can keep the conversation civil. If you have any questions about dialogue here at pomomusings, please read my Commenting Policy.

This post is part of an ongoing review of Jack Rogers’s book “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality.Individual Chapter Reviews: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6 and Chapter 7. I also share some Final Thoughts about the book here.

Comments

  1. says

    Jack was my philosophy professor at Fuller, where he served for many years. I don’t know where he was on this issue back then, but he was an early advocate of women at Fuller. Lew Smedes came out with a similar position as Jack, but after he had become emeritus at Fuller.

    That 2 of my seminary professors have taken a pro-gay position has been encouraging to me!

  2. says

    i am currently in the chapter where he goes through the history of how people used the Bible to advocate for slavery, segregation and bad treatment of women. VERY interesting to learn about this history.

    There is also a brand new book by a former evangelical who is an anthropologist and is gay called ‘Thou Shalt Not Love: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays’ by Patrick M. Chapman. i have it in line to read after Rogers book.
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0971468621/1n9867a-20

    i am looking forward to seeing how they come to their conclusions.

    Adam, i too started to summarize the chapters and found it was way too much as i was going to blog on each chapter. i think i will pick quotes that speak to me and post those.

    EP

  3. says

    I’ve also read Rogers’ book. I found his writing on being created in the image of God (pg 88, for those playing at home) being less about substance and more about how we reflect God’s love to be very empowering. Will look forward to your series.

  4. says

    Adam,
    Great quote from Rogers’ book. I myself haven’t read it all of the way through (as with most books I begin), but am picking it back up soon as our discussion group/Bible Study tackles the issue from all possible angles.

    You are timely as always, and I thank you so much for continuing to discuss this hot button issue. I think that your last post was a great one, yet widely misunderstood by the masses in brickianity trying to protect their foundational wall. I thought it was well done, and most scholars would actually go farther than you did and say that you HAVE to put aside the Bible (at least those 7 famous references) in order to discuss this topic because they are inadequate at most on the issue as it presents itself today. I think the key is reclaiming one’s sense of humanity and human rights before putting the Bible (again, at least those 7 references) back into the conversation.

    I look forward to your discussion further on this book, and I am grateful that you are willing to discuss publicly this issue with a human heart, and without reservation!

  5. Andrew says

    I really enjoy reading this blog. I’m very grateful to read Adam’s ongoing life story-the happy and the not, the joys and the frustrations. I should say that if you are an evangelical Christian, then there is probably a 0% chance of your reading my comments being productive. I was going to apologize in advance, but it sounded stupid. I mean no harm and I recognize that to some people I am a prehistoric caveman living in the forest and they are 21st century beings—that is to say, we live in different universes and our words and references just don’t mean the same things. Maybe that was just as stupid.

    I read the previous posting on this subject and all of the comments with great interest. It’s the subject that was the proverbial straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back and made me realize I just can’t be a Christian anymore. I consider myself evidence that if you start down the slippery slope of questioning the Bible, it ends badly (by the Bible’s point of view).

    For a long time I considered myself a “Progressive” Christian. I was able to relegate all those things in the Bible that just didn’t make sense in today’s world to cultural differences or ignorances (I mean that in the best sense of the word, if there is one) of the men who put pen to parchment.

    But at some point, when one admits that the Bible was wrong about the nature of the Universe, the role of women, slavery, reproductive biology, astronomy, and yes, homosexuality—I was left to conclude that the whole premise is wrong. If a textbook were as wrong on as many subjects as the Bible, no one would have any problem tossing it out. “But Jesus had a really bad weekend for my sins”—the common response. Well, I’ve seen people close to me suffer in agony and pain for months before they finally died. John 3:16 just doesn’t mean the same to me now as it did when I was a kid growing up in the Missouri Synod Lutheran church.
    I guess I don’t really understand the end game of this exercise of having the two sides discuss their beliefs on this issue. What is the middle ground? “I hear and acknowledge your beliefs on this issue, and it’s just too bad you don’t agree that gay people should/shouldn’t marry.” What is the point of that? People who believed that slavery was OK were wrong. People who believed that other races were inferior and supported anti-miscegenation laws were wrong. And people who are against gay marriage simply are wrong.

    Since I brought up the notion of “slippery slope” I feel compelled to explain why I don’t think gay marriage is a slippery slope to the legalization of plural marriages, bestiality or incest as is sometimes claimed. Unlike Biblical marriages in which the women were property, I firmly believe that modern marriage is a contract between two equal partners. That simply cannot be achieved if one man is balanced against multiple women, an animal or a child. I think the fact that one would think that gay marriage could lead to any of those things speaks very poorly of that person’s understanding of marriage in its modern sense.

    Adam took a lot of heat for asking people to set aside the Bible for a time. I can understand why people would be so afraid to do that. I had to set it aside completely—to put it on the shelf next to The Odyssey, The Art of War, and the plays of William Shakespeare. There is much to learn from it, but it is not the ultimate arbiter of morality or reality.

    At least that is what I’ve come to believe. It took me a long time to finally admit it to myself. I don’t think I will ever be able to shed my cultural Christianity, or that I even want to. At this point in my life, it’s how my brain is wired.

    I guess my point to all this is that I just don’t think consensus on this issue is really possible. Probably most people who were pro slavery went to their deathbeds holding that view, and future generations eventually purged that notion. I think the same will be true for gay marriage. One day our grandchildren’s children will wonder how we were ever against it.

  6. says

    Adam, I really appreciate your reflections regarding homosexuality and the church. Too many times we make this such a “black and white” issue which ultimately becomes an irresponsible way of developing our hermeneutical understanding of this very issue. I graduated Fuller last year and we read several J. Rogers book in my Presby classes (I was on the ordination track) and I have really appreciated his provocative thoughts. I think you’re right when you say that we must reframe our understanding and shift our paradigm when attempting to reconcile homosexuality and church regardless of where we stand on the issue. Thanks again and I look forward to reading mroe!

  7. says

    Great comment, Andrew.

    Adam, strangely, it was a post on this topic that also got the most comments on my blog. I’ve blogged on War, the nature of God, Politics, parenting and so on. Yet, it’s this topic that gets the most comments.

    Whatever one’s views, that’s just unbalanced!

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